The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.
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THE next parish southward from Nutsted is Meopham, vulgarly called Mepham, and antiently written, Meapaham. (fn. 1)
MEOPHAM is situated about twenty-four miles from London, and nine from Dartford. It is rather a bye out of the way place, lying among the hills, and no well frequented thoroughfare through it. It is a large parish, extending near five miles from north to south, and near three miles from east to west; lies for the most part on high ground, though with continued hill and dale; the soils in it are various, much of it is poor and chalky, but in the vallies it is heavy tillage land; the roads are stony, narrow, and bad, but the air, like the neighbouring hilly parishes, is very healthy. The village, having the church and Court-lodge in it, stands in the centre of the parish; in the southern part there are several coppice woods, mostly of beech and birch, intermixed with scrubby oak trees, which in these parts hardly ever grow to any size; there are several small hamlets in different parts of it, as Mellaker, Hook-green, and Camer, in the northern parts; Pitfield-green, Priest-wood, and Culverstone-green, in the southern parts. In the former part of the parish, at Camer, there is a good modern house, which was built by Mr. George Master, whose son, George Master, esq. likewise resided here; he died unmarried, and without issue, leaving his sister, Catherine, his heir, married to Mr. Smith, of Croydon, in Surry, who in her right became possessed of it; after his death she removed to East Malling; her eldest son, George Smith, esq. married Rebecca, daughter of the Rev. Nicholas Brett, of Spring-grove, in Wye. He now possesses this house, and resides here.
This parish, among others in this neighbourhood, was antiently contributary to the repair of the ninth pier of Rochester bridge.
ATHELSTANE, king of England, gave the perpetual inheritance of Meopham to duke Eadulf, who, in 940, with the king's consent, gave it to Christ church, in Canterbury, in the presence of archbishop Wlselm, free from all secular service and royal tribute, excepting the trinoda necessitas of repelling invasions, and the repairs of castles and highways. Queen Ediva, mother of king Edmund and king Edred, in 961, gave Meopham to Christ church for the health of her soul, with the like privileges; by which it may be observed, that in the accounts of the donations of the Saxon kings, the same manors and places are frequently mentioned, as having been given by several different kings, which was occasioned by their continual dissensions, and contending with each other with various success; one king taking away the possessions of the church, and another regranting the same. Besides, it has been frequently found, that when one of these kings gave a small parcel of land in a parish or manor, in the Saxon codocils, he has been recorded as having given the whole of it. Soon after this the church's possessions were further increased here; for whilst Ælsstane was bishop of Rochester, who came to the see in 945, and died in 984, one Birtrick, a rich and powerful man, who then resided here, devised, with the consent of Elsswithe his wife, his land at Meopham, by his last testament, a most curious record of the customs of those times, to Christ church, Canterbury, together with sixty marcs of gold, thirty to the bishop and thirty to the convent; and one necklace of twenty marcs and two cups of silver. The original is in the Saxon language, and is inserted, with a Latin interpretation of it, both in Lambarde and in the Registrum Roffense, (fn. 2) and by Dr. Hickes, in his Differtatio Epistolaris, at the end of his Thesaurus, with his notes and remarks on it; by it the antient form and phrases of a testament may be known, and it may be observed by it—that the husband and wife joined in making their testaments; that lands were devisable by testament in old time; and by what words estates of inheritance were wont to be created; that the lord's consent was thought requisite to the testament of the tenant, and that it was procured by the gift of a heriot, which, as Bracton says, was done at first, Magis de gratia quam de jure: and lastly, what weapons, jewels, and ornaments, were then worn and in use.
MEOPHAM remained among the possessions of Christ church, at the consecration of archbishop Lanfranc, in the 4th year of William the Conqueror's reign; who, when he separated the manors and lands belonging to his church, allotted this manor to the monks for their subsistance, cloathing, and other ne cessary uses; and it is accordingly thus entered in the record of Domesday, under the general title of land of the monks of the archbishop.
The archbishop himself holds Mepeham. It was taxed in the time of king Edward the Confessor for ten sulins, now for seven. The arable land is 30 carucates. In demesne there are four, and 25 villeins, with seventy one borderers, having 25 carucates. There is a church, and 17 servants, and 16 acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of 10 hogs. In the whole value, in the time of king Edward, it was worth 15 pounds and 10 shillings, now 26 pounds. Richard de Tonebridge has in his lowy what is worth 18 shillings and sixpence. Wood for the pannage of 20 hogs.
This manor was De cibo monachorum, that is, to the use of their refectory. (fn. 3) In the year 1306, anno 35 king Edward I. Henry Prior and the chapter of Christ church, Canterbury, released to their homagers and tenants of Mepham certain customs and services for an annual rent, to be paid yearly to them within the manor of Mepham.
King Edward II. by his letters patent, in his 10th year, granted to the prior and convent free warren for themselves and their successors, in all their demesne lands in Meopham. King Henry VI. in his 25th year, granted to them a market at Meopham weekly, on a Saturday; and one yearly fair, on the feast of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. (fn. 4)
The manor of Meopham continued part of the possessions of the priory of Christ church till the dissolution of it in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when it was surrendered into the king's hands, to whom it was, together with all the lands and possessions belonging to it, given by the general words of the act, passed that year for this purpose, but it did not remain long in the crown, for king Henry settled it, among other lands, by his dotation charter, in his 33d year, on his new erected dean and chapter of Canterbury, part of whose possessions it now remains. On the abolishing of deans and chapters, in 1649, after the death of king Charles I. their manors and lands were ordered, by the powers then in being, to be surveyed, as a security for certain sums of money to be borrowed on them, to supply the necessities of the state; and in 1650, another ordinance passed for the sale of them, to discharge those sums and other purposes therein mentioned. In consequence of the former, the manor and rectory of Meopham, belonging to the dean and chapter of Canterbury, were surveyed in March 1649, when it was returned, that the tithes of corn and blade, within the manor of Meopham, estimated, coibs annis, at 120l. were, with their appurtenances, let by the late dean and chapter, in 1630, to Francis Courthop and Nicholas Barham, and also the scite, court-lodge, and demesnes of their manor of Meopham, and all houses, barns, lands, &c. and other emoluments, parcel of the demesnes, and parsonage, and one acre of land near the parish church of Meopham, and the woods and underwoods of the manor, containing fifty-five acres, excepting all rents of assize, courts, and law days, and other royalties of the manor, to hold during the lives of Anne Courthope and Barham Haslin, at the yearly rent of 36l. and for entertainment money to the receiver, 2l. yearly, and the further sum of 100l. every seventh year; which premises were worth besides, the improved value of 222l. 16s. 6d. and that the lessee was bound to repair the buildings and the chancel of the parish church. (fn. 5)
At the restoration of king Charles II. and the reestablishment both of church and state, the deans and chapters resumed their former possessions, from which time the scite, court-lodge, demesnes, wood, &c. above mentioned, have continued from time to time in lease from the dean and chapter of Canterbury.
But the manor of Meopham itself, with the rents of assize, courts, law days, and other royalties belonging to it, still continues in their own possession. There is a court leet and court baron held for this manor.
John Hastlelin or Hasling, as the name was afterwards spelt, was tenant of the Court-lodge, with the demesnes, consisting of six hundred and fifty acres, and the parsonage, consisting of the tithes of eleven hundred acres and upwards of land, at the dissolution of the priory of Christ church, at the yearly rent of 30l. 6s. 8d. and resided at the court lodge; his descendants, who bore for their arms, Gules, a fess embattled ermine, between three talbots or, (fn. 6) continued lessees of it under the dean and chapter for several years; but at length, soon after the restoration of king Charles II. it was in the name of Johnson, after which it came into that of Christmas, and then of Spratt; but in 1724, it was in the possession of Mr. John Market, whose son of the same name rebuilt the Court lodge; he married Anne, one of the daughters of John Hooker, esq. of Tunbridge, by whom he has several children. He is the present lessee, and now resides here.
THE MANOR OF DODMORE lies in this parish, an was, in very early times, in the possession of the noble and knightly family of Huntingfield. Sir Peter de Huntingfield was sheriff of this county several times in the reign of king Edward I. and was knighted by that prince at the siege of Carlaverock, in Scotland. He died in the 7th year of king Edward II. and was succeeded in this manor by his son and heir, Sir Walter de Huntingfield, (fn. 7) who by deed, without any date affixed to it, passed it away by sale to John Smith, and he, in the 47th year of king Edward III. alienated his interest in it to Richard Idleigh of Idleigh, in Ash near Wrotham, from whom those of this name at Easture in Chilham, and Rolling in Goodnestone, were descended; they bore for their arms, An eagle displayed with two necks, as appears by the deed of J. de Idleigh, of Ash, with his seal appendant to it, anno 43 king Edward III. in the Surrenden library.
Who were the owners of Dodmore from this time to the reign of king Henry VIII. I do not find, but it was then in the possession of Thomas Cavendish, esq. of the king's exchequer, who by Alice, his first wife, daughter and coheir of John Smith, esq. of Podbrookhall, in Suffolk, had three sons and one daughter; of the sons, William (the second) was ancestor to the present duke of Devonshire. He died possessed of this manor in the 15th year of king Henry VIII. and by his will, devised all his lands and tenements in the county of Kent to his wife Agnes, who survived him, to sell for certain purposes therein mentioned. This manor was accordingly sold to Henry Taylor, from whom it descended to John Taylor, who married Judith, daughter of Robert Quintin, alias Oliver, of Leyborne, in this county. (fn. 8) He alienated it about the middle of queen Elizabeth's reign to John Giffard, who quickly after conveyed it to Walter Powree, of Brenchley, from whom it was conveyed to Henry Collins, and he, in 1603, alienated his interest in it to Walter Kipping, gent. of Kipping's-cross, in Tudeley. He left two daughters his coheirs, of whom Dorothy, the eldest, was married to Edward Darell, esq. second son of Sir Robert Darell, of Cale-hill; and Anne to Mr. James Darrell, fourth son of Sir Robert Darrell above mentioned; and after his death, to Thomas Henshaw, esq. of Kensington. On the division of their inheri tance, Dodmore was included in that share allotted to Edward Darrell. It afterwards came into the possession of Mr. George Lattenden, of Frindsbury, who at his death devised it by will to Mr. Thomas Elliot, and he is the present possessor of it.
There is a court baron now held for this manor.
DEAN-COURT is an estate here, which was formerly part of the possessions of the great and opulent family of Twitham. (fn. 9) Alan de Twitham was among those Kentish gentlemen who were with king Richard I. at the siege of Acon, in Palestine. His descendant, Bertram de Twitham, held this estate at his death, in the 3d year of king Edward III. Alanus de Twitham died possessed of it in the 25th year of that reign, as did his son Theobald, in the 4th year of king Richard II. He died without male issue, leaving Maud, his only daughter, heir to his large possessions in this county, all which she carried in marriage to Simon Septvans, of Chequer in Ash, by Sandwich, a younger branch of those of Milton Septvans, near Canterbury, called in antient Latin deeds, De septem Vannis. He had by her Sir William Septvans, whose son, John Septvans, esq. by Constance, his wife, daughter and heir of Thomas Ellys, of Sandwich, left three sons; John, to whom he gave Hells, Twitham, Chilton, and Mollands, in Ash, with other lands in this county; Thomas, who had this estate of Dean court, with other lands; and Gilbert, who had this manor of Chequer in Ash, above mentioned; from the possession of which this family was some time called At-Chequer, as it was afterwards Harsleet, from some eminent service performed by Gilbert Septvans, alias At-Chequer, at the town of that name in Normandy, under king Henry V. which name of Harsleet became afterwards hereditary to all the descendants of this family, as well in a direct line from him, as collateral. At first they were stiled Har fleet, alias Septvans, but in process of time their first and more antient name of Septvans was dropped, and they were called by that of Harsleet only.
Dean-court continued in the descendants of Thomas Septvans, alias Harsleet above mentioned, till the reign of king Charles I. when Thomas Harsleet conveyed it by sale, together with another estate, called Ham, in this parish,' to Francis Twysden, fifth son of Sir William Twysden, bart. of East Peckham, in this county. He died possessed of these estates unmarried, in 1675, and by his will gave them to his nephew, Sir Wm. Twysden, bart. of East Peckham, who died possessed of them in 1697, and was succeeded by his second, but eldest surviving son and heir, Sir Thomas Twysden, bart. who alienated Dean-court and Ham to Samuel Atwood, clerk, who gave them by his will, in 1735, to Elizabeth Hodsoll, and she again gave them by her will to her niece, married to Richard Gee, esq. of Orpington, who died in 1791, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard Gee, esq. who has since taken the name of Carew, and is the present owner of these estates. (fn. 10)
MRS. MARKLAND gave by will, in 1666, to twenty poor persons of this parish, not taking alms, 2s. each, and 20s. to the minister, to preach a sermon on New Year's day, chargeable on land in Meopham, vested in Mrs. Catherine Smith, of East Malling, widow, and of the annual produce of 3l.
A PERSON UNKNOWN gave towards the relief of the poor 10s, yearly, charged on a messuage in Wouldham, vested in John Tayler, of Barham, and of that annual produce.
MEOPHAM is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and being a peculiar of the archbishop, is within the deanry of Shoreham. The church, which is a large handsome building, with a square tower at the west end, is dedicated to St. John Baptist.
Among other monuments and inscriptions in it are the following: In the chancel, a memorial for Henry Haslin, esq. of Meopham, who married Mary, daughter of Sir George Courthope, of Wileigh, in Sussex, and Elizabeth his wife, and had two sons and one daughter, obt. 1658; a brass plate for John Follham, vicar here, obt. June 13, 1455. In the north side of the chancel is an antient stone, with Saxon letters cut round the edge, but without any reference to shew the person buried under it. In the nave, a stone for Christopher Copland, vicar here thirty-seven years, ob. 12 Cal. June, 1707.
Within the memory of several antient people of this parish, some of the bells of this church being to be new cast, and there being wanting a sufficient quantity of metal to do it, some persons tore off the brass inscriptions from the stones in this church, except that of Follham above mentioned, and threw them into the heating metal, to add to its quantity.
Simon Meopham, elected archbishop of Canterbury in 1327, was born here. He rebuilt this church, which was repaired by archbishop Courtney about seventy years afterwards, who annexed to it four new alms houses for the use of the poor. (fn. 11)
This church was always esteemed as an appendage to the manor of Meopham, in which state it continued till the dissolution of the priory of Christ church, in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when it was, together with the rest of the possessions of the priory, surrendered into the king's hands; who, by his donation charter, in his 33d year, settled this manor, the rectory, and the advowson of the vicarage of this church, among other premises, on his new founded dean and chapter of Christ church, Canterbury, with whom the inheritance of the rectory or parsonage still remains, the present lessee of it being John Market, esq. of this parish. But the advowson of the vicarage was soon afterwards conveyed to the archbishop of Canterbury, and His Grace the archbishop still continues at this time patron of it.
Archbishop Richard, Becket's immediate successor, in the reign of king Henry II. is said to have appro priated this church to the use of the almonry of the priory of Christ church, but this appropriation does not seem to have taken place, for in the 8th year of king Richard II. the portion paid from this church to the almonry was the yearly gross sum of 61. 13s. 4d. at which time it was not appropriated, as appears by the certificate given in to the abbot of St. Augustine's, appointed by the king's letters patent collector of the half tenth, then granted to the king by the clergy, when this church was taxed at 261. 8d.
King Richard II. was a great benefactor to the priory of Christ church; (fn. 12) and among other marks of his favour, in the 9th year of his reign, he gave licence to the monks to appropriate the churches of Meopham and Godmersham to their own use. Accordingly William Courtney, archbishop of Canterbury, appropriated this church to them, and most probably to that of their almonry, in compliance with the intention of his predecessor.
In an antient valuation of the churches in this diocese, made in the 15th year of king Edward I. the church of Meopham is valued at forty marcs. (fn. 13) On the sequestration of the possessions of deans and chapters, after the death of king Charles I. the manor and rectory of Meopham were surveyed in 1649, by order of the state, an account of which has already been given above; and in 1650, there was another survey taken, in which it was returned, that Meopham was a vicarage presentative, worth 50l. per annum, Mr. Gibbon then incumbent, in the room of the late Mr. Pigget, then sequestered; that there was a pension of 5l. 6s. 8d. per annum, paid by the late dean and chapter of Canterbury, who had the impropriation, worth 120l. per annum, let on lease to Mr. Henry Haslin. This vicarage is valued in the king's books at 16l. 3s. 4d. and the yearly tenths at 1l. 2s. 4d. (fn. 14)
The vicar of Meopham receives all manner of tithes, except corn, and enjoys an augmentation of thirty pounds per annum, paid by the lessee of the parsonage, and the annual pension of 5l. 6s. 8d. from the dean and chapter.
Church of Meopham.
|Or by whom presented.|
|The Prior and Convent of Christ church||John Follham, ob. June 13, 1455. (fn. 15)|
|Hugo Saunders, D.D. about 1501. (fn. 16)|
|Pigget, in 1649. (fn. 17)|
|Archbishop of Canterbury.||Christopher Copland, 1670, obt. May 21, 1707. (fn. 18)|
|Sandys, 1763, resig. 1770.|
|John Tatham, 1770, resig. 1785. (fn. 19)|
|John Smedley, 1787. Present vicar.|